(*) (*) issue 7 (*)

Articles & Reviews

contents (*)

Conservational Intervention

Yesung Kim
Joint 2nd Prize, UK Student Competition


This essay stood out because of its limpid, understated writing style and the delicate ease with which it inserted its freight of illuminating references. It managed the difficult task of combining conceptual exposition with a poetics of process.

Linda Sandino

Figure 1

I have concentrated on cracks in walls, gaps in roads or broken corners of buildings. My working process was to fill up or repair the gaps, cracks and corners with clays, and then, the small pieces were taken out from the cracks, and these were fired in a kiln. After all the processes, I installed the pieces in the original cracks of the walls, roads or corners. This means that the installed spaces would be changed into exhibits. I've been interested in changing the meaning of a space from everyday life spaces to exhibited spaces such as, galleries or museums, through my ideas or objects.

Before this project, I chose public spaces for my works. I have enjoyed the interaction with people in a public space through my work.

In this project, I'm going to explain my work in four parts:

  • First, this work is a sort of conservation.
  • Second, this work is filling or repairing gaps.
  • Third, this work could be considered to be a 'still life' of sorts.
  • Fourth, this work is also in the tradition of 'landscape' art.

First, this work is a sort of conservation.

As I say about 'conservation', it means 'a reconstruction'. When I went to the British museum, I saw Greek pottery and relief sculptures from Babylon. The pottery and relief sculptures were reconstructed therefore replicas. If those things were not complete, they were filled up and repaired with white plaster. In my work, I also reconstructed broken parts of architectural structures. Through this stage, I can talk about 'time', 'history', and 'memory'. When buildings, roads, walls or structures were first built, they might have been perfect. However, with the passage of time, some parts of the complete structure disintegrated. A conservation process as a reconstruction of things of daily necessity is the same as reminding us of daily life from the past. As a result, the small ceramic pieces from gaps or cracks are a form of 'time capsule'.

Second, this work is filling or repairing gaps.

When I got this idea, I was thinking about treating a decayed tooth. The action of filling gaps seems to be a species of healing. Through my work, I am concerned with the lack of care for our environment by people. Metaphorically, original structures are human, and broken parts are their pain. The pain means sometimes physical pain and sometimes mental. To treat a decayed tooth, people usually use gold. So, the treated tooth consists of different material and decorated colour . The new tooth cannot become completely the same, but gold is a very valuable material. Instead of the same, it does give a different beauty and a different value. My works are exactly the same. I could not restore the cracks and gaps completely. It is not necessary. In place of this, I'm filling gaps which become 'art' as is beautiful and gives new meaning in the roads and in daily life.

Third, this work is very 'still life' in this time.

In art history, the genre of still life is widespread. The genre of still life started in Holland in the 17 th Century. 1 Still life means the art of painting or drawing arrangements of objects such as flowers, insects, fruits, a lump of meat and kitchen utensils. However, the paintings were not only vividly and accurately described objects, but also there was a particular meaning contained in these paintings. For example, Willem Claesz Heda (1594~1682) painted a painting, titled Still Life in 1634. The composition consisted of valuable objects but some of the objects were broken and the food was ready to eat. These things mean that all things in the worlds cannot remain permanently, because the life is short.  

In pictures, we can see a flower in full bloom, not knowing that in hours the flower will begin to decay. The painted life-like insect remains static and becomes the symbol of death within the painting, like a Damien Hirst artwork.

In my work I use small moulded fragments which become not only objects in themselves but metaphorical impressions like the still insect within the painted still life.

These objects are real but ironically become pieces of 'death'. Like contemporary art works in Tate Modern they are divided according to traditional genre, this work is a very 'still life' in this time.

At the same time, this work is also a sort of 'landscape'.

I was inspired by Asian Mountains and water Landscape paintings. Normally, the paintings are not filled full of objects within the landscape. They have some void space alongside the bottom of mountains or in the sky. Sometimes this 'empty' space becomes a visual pause for contemplation and evaluation. Practically, I fill the gaps with fired white clay to make the spaces appear to be empty. They become visible rather than camouflaged- seamless repairs making the white clay into a kind of 'nothingness'.

Referring to this technique, the surface of pieces are rough and natural in texture. The textures are beautiful. I can see the properties within clay / matter in the texture. So, to maximize the textured effect, I used white slips, manganese oxide and oxidized iron. This side is hidden after the installation in the correct place. The top side which is shown when installed is covered with white matt glaze. Symbolically the white colour means immeasurable potentiality and infinite space. The notion of white in Asian paintings and culture is not simply emptiness it is also fullness. I identify with this because I am an Asian from Korea.

Finally, I wish to consider and contextualize this project in some other artists' work. Looking at the work of Tomoko Takahashi and graffiti works on walls and in the underground have influenced this project. Takahashi works with objects left behind, for example rubbish. She uses layers and she brings new meaning to the obsolete in her installation. Her process echoes that of Robert Smithson , who sought to reveal the archaeologies of industrial society, in its refusal to add more stuff to our increasingly entropic material world. Smithson's works are a kind of landscape installation. He works with natural environments and industrial material. Takahashi also uses industrial stuff to make landscape in a different way. Between these two artists we can find a common sense about the attitudes of industrial society. On the other hand graffiti has something in common with adding to a public space and decorating the streets.2

Through Cornelia Parker's work ( Cold Dark Matter; An Exploded View 1991), broken parts of an exploded shed are suspended in space. Using the explosion process, she reorganized the shed. Her work reminds me of images of death and broken discarded objects. I identify within this aspect of her work.

Rachel Whiteread has been drawn to spaces marked by signs of human life. Her works are ghosts of interior spaces or positive impressions of negative spaces. I could find a similar element in my works from regarding the 'catching' of negative spaces.

I am still on my way to draw my world with clay. For me, Clay is not just material. Clay or Ceramic is my language before mother tongue. Sometimes I become a philologist for them and other times I try to be a poet.

Top of the page | Download Word document | Next


1. H.W & D.J. Janson, Story of Painting-From Cave Painting to Modern Times, Seoul, Korea, Youlhwadang Publisher, 1996, pp.154-155. back to text

2. See Iwona Blazwick, Fresh Cream, London, Phaidon, 2000, p.598. back to text

Top of the page | Download Word document | Next

Open Competition Sponsored by ICRC

Introduction to the 'Speak For Yourself' project

Jo Dahn

Ist Prize
A Collection of Small Miseries: Studio Philosophy and Project Research

Carole Hanson Epp (Canada)

2nd Prize
My Father's Razor

Sharon Blakey (UK)

Highly commended
Mimics of Everyday Life

Edith Garcia (UK based but originally USA)

Highly commended
My Hands in Clay and Other Media: The 'CASUALTIES' Project

Ozioma Onuzulike (Nigeria)

UK Student Competition, Prizes awarded by the HEAD Trust

Ist Prize
A Student's Reflection on Making Pots for Use

Olivia Horley

Joint 2nd Prize
Using Ceramics in a Mixed Media Context

Janet Roome

Joint 2nd Prize
Conservational Intervention

Yesung Kim

Reviews by:

Linda Sandino
(book review)

Garth Clark
(book review)

Richard D. Mohr
(reply to Garth Clark's review)

Wilma Cruise
(exhibition review)

Ron Wheeler
(obituary of Sid Tustin)

Conservational Intervention • Issue 7   Interpreting Ceramics